Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher-pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America's drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.
Roughly half or more of wells on federal and Indian lands weren't checked in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, despite potential harm that has led to efforts in some communities to ban new drilling.
In New Castle, a tiny Colorado River valley community, homeowners expressed chagrin at the large number of uninspected wells, many on federal land, that dot the steep hillsides and rocky landscape. Like elsewhere in the West, water is a precious commodity in this Colorado town, and some residents worry about the potential health hazards of any leaks from wells and drilling.
"Nobody wants to live by an oil rig. We surely didn't want to," said Joann Jaramillo, 54.
About 250 yards up the hill from Jaramillo's home, on land that was a dormant gravel pit when she bought the house eight years ago, is an active drilling operation that operates every day from 7 a.m. until sometimes 10:30 p.m. local time. Jaramillo said the drilling began about three years ago.